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Is someone you love suffering from an eating disorder?

Initially, a person dealing with an eating disorder experiences changes in attitude and behavior toward food. Have you noticed…

  • constant preoccupation with food?
  • obsessive collecting of recipes, cookbooks, and menus?
  • bizarre or ritualistic eating habits?
  • increased consumption of coffee, tea, and spices?
  • constant gum chewing?
  • purging after eating (through vomiting or laxative use)?
  • binge eating?

 

If you notice these habits in yourself or someone you love, it’s important to seek help. Early intervention is crucial!

A person with an eating disorder experiences emotional and social changes. Have you noticed…

  • depression?
  • anxiety?
  • irritability and anger?
  • psychotic, magical or irrational thinking episodes?
  • over-exercising?
  • extreme perfectionism?

 

Sometimes people seek help for these symptoms first.

Personality changes are evident as eating disorders develop and severity increases. As the effect on the brain continues, self-esteem suffers and social interaction decreases.

Cognitive changes occur as well, including a decrease in concentration, which leads to poor judgment and increasingly poor, self-defeating decisions. As the body continues to break down and energy decreases, apathy often develops. Severe depression may set in. It is important to seek help immediately.

Physically, a multitude of changes occur. Have you noticed…

  • sleep disturbances?
  • weakness?
  • gastrointestinal disturbances?
  • hypersensitivity to noise and light?
  • edema (water retention), particularly in the ankles?
  • decreased metabolic rate? (This can be a sign of leaking heart valves as the body resorts to feeding off itself to survive – if you have this symptom seek help now.)
  • decrease in sexual interest as depression and apathy increase?
  • weight loss?
  • extremely dry skin?
  • hair loss?

 

Fine, soft hair on face and elsewhere (lanugo), which resembles the fur of baby chicks? This is a sign of severe self-starvation. Seek help immediately.

Once an eating disorder has reached this stage, outpatient counseling may not be effective. LifeWorks counselors can assess whether an individual should seek residential treatment. While this article deals mainly with anorexia, or self-starvation, other eating disorders such as bulimia, binge eating, and compulsive overeating, are prevalent in our society as well.

Are you or is someone you love experiencing…

  • binge eating – characterized by a self-destructive binge/purge cycle?
  • compulsive overeating – involving an obsessive use of food for comfort, stress relief, or some other emotional release?

 

All eating disorders are self-destructive and involve a painful cycle of emotional pain, self-damage, and shame. We refer to this as the shame cycle. Eating disorder counseling can help.

If you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder, please encourage them to get help today!

 

Resources:

Something Fishy
Screening Tool for Eating Disorders
Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
National Eating Disorders Association
Overeaters Anonymous
Eating Disorder Hope


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Melanie Wells, LPC, LMFT, LPC & LMFT Supervisor

Melanie Wells

LPC, LMFT, LPC & LMFT Supervisor

After eight long years of rock-busting in conventional counseling practices, Melanie Wells founded The LifeWorks Group in 1999 to offer clients a fresh, innovative approach to the everyday problems of life. Since that inauspicious beginning (we had two pleather chairs, a broken copier and about $7 in the bank) LifeWorks has trained hundreds of interns and helped tens of thousands... Read More

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